Having posted my favourite American sitcoms, I think it is only fair to list my favourite comedies from my own wonderful country. As I suggested in my last post, I prefer British comedy, maybe because the humour is much closer to home.
So without further waffling, let’s dive straight in. I apologise for any obvious omissions (Only Fools and Horses almost made it – but not quite).
10. Black Books
I am going to start with an odd little comedy show that ran for three seasons on Channel 4 featuring three very bizarre characters. Bernard Black, played by Dylan Moran is the owner of Black Books, a small bookshop, and doesn’t like customers, often being rude to them, and possessing a negative outlook on life while quaffing red wine. His oldest friend is Fran, played by Tamsin Grieg who herself is a bit weird and spends most of her time trying to get Bernard to behave in an acceptable manner. Finally, Manny is Bernard’s assistant, played by Bill Bailey and tries to make Black Books something more than it is while being treated with utter contempt by Bernard, who begrudgingly accepts that Manny is good for the shop. The show is slightly eccentric but very funny and all characters are superbly portrayed.
9. Drop the Dead Donkey
Drop the Dead Donkey was a very clever comedy show set in a newsroom, and recorded just a day or two before transmission so that the writers could include the latest news items in the show. It was full of hilarious but flawed characters each of whom had their own problems that usually spilled out into the show. The newsroom was run by a man called Gus Hedges who’s every utterance were complete phrases of business bullshit.
8. The IT Crowd
The IT Crowd is a personal comedy for me because, as you may know, dear reader, I work in IT myself. The show centres around Moss and Roy, who are two geeks working in the IT support department of a big company, and their boss Jen. The IT department is forgotten in the bowels of the multi-storey building they work in and all the guys seem to do is answer the phone and say “have you tried switching it off and back on again?” (a trade secret if you are supporting a system).
And although I am a geek myself, I am nothing like Roy and Moss.
“I have come here to kick ass and drink milk … and I’ve finished my milk!”
7. The Office
I remember watching The Office for the first time, thinking it was a real documentary – that is until I started laughing out loud. What I like most about the series is that I know a real life David Brent, a man who thinks that he is a frustrated entertainer who everybody loves, but is really a bloody idiot. The show was so successful that the format was sold to many countries, each of which put their own spin on the show (in fact the American version is also very funny and features in my top ten US sitcoms).
6. Father Ted
I’m cheating a little here because strictly speaking, Father Ted is from Ireland. Nevertheless, I will cheat anyway as I think it is hilarious. Father Ted Crilly is the parish priest of a remote Irish enclave called Craggy Island and lives with two other priests, Father Dougal who is like a stupid child, Father Jack, a cantankerous old drunkard who is totally repulsive and politically incorrect, and their housekeeper Mrs Doyle. I was brought up a Catholic myself and I would have loved it if the priests who took Mass were even remotely like the priests portrayed in the series; I might even have stayed being a practicing Catholic.
5. One Foot In The Grave
Victor Meldrew has become a fictional national treasure, with his grumpy outlook on life and his cries of “I don’t believe it!” when confronted by the absurdity of life. It’s amazing that the lives of a normal elderly couple living in a typically English suburb can suffer so much pain and bad luck but the Meldrews, particularly Victor, have to endure so much. Of course, if you have seen the show, you will know that Victor Meldrew brings most of the misfortune on himself. Mrs PM (and others) have remarked that I am slowly turning into Victor Meldrew – I bloody well hope not!
4. The Young Ones
In 1981, I was in the right place at the right time to fully appreciate The Young Ones. It is the story of four totally obnoxious students sharing a house: Rick, the obnoxious sociology student; Vyvyan, the mentally unstable and extremely violent medical student; Neil the nature loving hippy; Mike who thought he was the coolest man on the planet.
The show was full of mayhem and I know it didn’t appeal to adults at the time; it was puerile disgusting, violent and extremely silly – but hilarious. You had to be there – and I was!
3. Red Dwarf
If I were the last human being alive, I would like to think that I would share some of Dave Lister’s traits. I also live with three cats and the thought of a humanoid evolved from my hellcat would be a nightmare. I also know at least one person as obnoxious and generally unlikeable as Arnold Rimmer. Oh – and I want Kryten to live in my house and wash, and clean for me.
You may wonder what I am going on about. If you don’t then you will have never watched Red Dwarf and you will not understand the phrase “Better Dead Than Smeg”.
I actually saw Craig Charles(Dave Lister) in Manchester airport. At the time he was starring in the soap opera, Coronation Street, playing a character called Lloyd. A female friend said (rather loudly and in full earshot of Craig) “It’s Lloyd from Corrie!”. “No it’s not, “ I exclaimed. “It’s “Dave Lister!”
We then proceeded to argue about Red Dwarf vs Coronation Street.
I looked across and saw him shrug his shoulders and shake his head with an embarrassed wry smile.
If you are reading, Craig, I do apologise.
2. Fawlty Towers
There have been fewer more insufferable and rude characters than Basil Fawlty, the owner and manager of Fawlty Towers, a hotel situated in Torquay on the south coast of England. Most people expect to be treated with respect in hotels, but Fawlty seems to allow his own judgement of people determine how he treats them. If he doesn’t like you then you are in trouble. Aided by his domineering wife, a waitress who should have left years ago and a Spanish waiter who struggles to speak English, chaos always ensues.
Thankfully I have never stayed in a hotel like it – thank goodness.
Edmund Blackadder started out in the Dark Ages, as a weasel, a sycophantic loser with no brains and a purely detestable prince of the realm. His servant Baldrick was the brains of the operation, always with a cunning plan to rescue his hapless master. By the fourth series, set in World War 1, Blackadder was no longer a prince but had evolved into a devious and unpleasant character whose only thoughts were about himself. Baldrick had devolved into a repulsive little idiot.
While series one was a little hit and miss, the remaining three series, and the two specials, were and are comedy masterpieces. I remember showing an episode of Blackadder II to two American women – and they just didn’t get it (or even understand it), which is a real shame. However, it does highlight my initial point about loving comedy that is closer to home. US comedy is good – but not as good as British comedy.
Over to you, dear reader.
Have you seen any of the sitcoms above?
Do you agree with me?
If not, what are your favourite British sitcoms?